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The Wolf Motif in the Hobbesian Text

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Hobbesian anthropology makes use of the wolf motif, a Roman and Republican one, by which Hobbes defines a state of nature as a state of war where men live in diffidence each other and where fear is law; the wolf is there a timid or unsociable animal, not a sanguinary or savage creature. But against ancient philosophers and moral writers – Aristotle, Cicero – who regard man as a rational being and who believe in a right reason, the modern philosopher reuses this motif to set before men eyes that monarchy is the only way to protect citizens from gatherings of wolves in the city; reflections on civil wars conduct him to side with the sovereign power of one. Against upholders of regicide who compare the king to a tyrant, Hobbes inscribes the political motif of the wolf in his text by which beast – 'arrant wolf ' – is distinguishable from animal; he mainly rewrites it on Seneca's text, the Stoic who expounded a desperate vision of humankind. By focusing on a Graeco-Roman heritage, this study shows in three parts that the philosopher of De Cive and Leviathan is not really – not only – the man of a pessimistic view on mankind; it is a portrait of a Renaissance philosopher who never, exactly, wrote that 'man is a wolf to man'.


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